Byron Thomashow, MD, is medical director of the Jo-Ann LeBuhn Center for Chest Disease and Respiratory Failure at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a clinical...
Yes, people with COPD can have many sleep-related problems. These can range from sleep interruptions and insomnia to severe sleep apnea. Some problems are fairly mild; others require help from
a sleep specialist who can perform testing in a sleep lab. There's also sleep-testing equipment available that you can use at home.
If you find that you awaken during the night needing to take additional doses of your inhaler medications, this is a sign that you may need longer-acting maintenance drugs. Talk to your doctor about medication management. If you have trouble falling asleep and wish to use a sleep aid, it's also important to consult with your doctor before taking anything, including medications sold over the counter. People with COPD need to be cautious about using sedating sleep medications because they can impair lung function.
Many people with COPD develop sleep apnea, which is the term for temporary stoppages of air while you sleep. If apnea or other breathing problems are severe enough to cause the oxygen levels in the blood to drop, this can prevent good quality sleep and can also be dangerous, putting a strain on the heart. There are several treatments for sleep apnea that have a high success rate. Mouth appliances can be used to reposition the jaw and tongue, easing breathing, and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices can deliver air into the airways. Oxygen therapy can improve sleep for people with COPD, but oxygen use should always be discussed with and prescribed by your doctor.